Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is a well-conceived, well-sung, vastly entertaining production of one of Rossini's most popular operas. Designer Marina Draghici has created a cartoonish world that works--the costumes for the Italians are straight out of Dick Tracy, in blazing colors, and the Algerians are in somewhat traditional garb, except when Mustafa sports a leopard-skin cape and silver jacket, at which point he looks like an even-odder version of Nero. His palace eunuchs wear huge prosthetic stomachs while his guards are reminiscent of 1920s American gangsters--or again, characters out of a Dick Tracy comic strip. The props are huge, with a ship the size of the Titanic sailing across the rear of the stage and sinking suddenly (presumably Isabella's means of
transportation) and a massive table for massive meals. A cartoon of a pin-up on a pole completes the all-fun look. Andrei Serban's direction is equally wacky but never ridiculous.
American mezzo Jennifer Larmore is at her best in this 1998 performance from the Paris Opéra. She's always had somewhat of a hard edge to her performing style, and the role of Isabella suits that perfectly; furthermore, she looks great and has no trouble with the role's plentiful coloratura and two-octave-plus range. She can mellow her tone when she's in seductive mode, but there's always a bit of steel in her voice.
Tenor Bruce Ford occasionally blurs some of Rossini's divisions, but he's a marvelous performer with a thoroughly impressive voice and he does the role of Lindoro proud. As Mustafa, Simone Alaimo is as vocally secure as he is dramatically, which is to say, he's ideal. Alessandro Corbelli sings Taddeo with comic flair and Anthony Smith does what he can with the role of Haly. Bruno Campanella leads with verve and accuracy and only occasionally does the stage and pit seem out of sync. He holds the remarkable first-act finale together perfectly, with its nonsense sounds and syllables. A DVD on DG from the Met offers the absolutely perfect Marilyn Horne in a charming, more understated, better conducted production, but most of the other players are not quite as good as their Paris counterparts. Either will please Rossinians.
--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
L'italiana in Algeri by Gioachino Rossini
Bruce Ford (Tenor),
Simone Alaimo (Baritone),
Jeannette Fischer (Soprano),
Jennifer Larmore (Mezzo Soprano),
Maria José Trullu (Alto),
Alessandro Corbelli (Baritone)
Paris National Opera Chorus,
Paris National Opera Orchestra
Written: 1813; Italy
Date of Recording: 4/1998
Venue: Live Opéra national de Paris
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